and one from newsweek, believe or not
Xenon Zi-Neng Yuan
wenhuadageming at comcast.net
Sat Jul 26 01:47:47 MDT 2003
Uday and Qusay's deaths will not stop the guerrilla war. Why Iraq could be
worse than Vietnam
by Christopher Dickey
Newsweek Web Exclusive
Those of us who've covered the Third World's wars are used to looking at
mugshots of the dead, whole photo albums of corpses.
SOME HUMAN-RIGHTS organizations collect them to show the brutally murdered
victims of evil dictators. Some generals collect them (I'm thinking of a
Turkish general in particular) to show, body by body, their victories over
elusive guerrillas. And sometimes the victims in one collection and the
guerrillas in the other are the same. That's the problem with
counterinsurgency: separating "the innocent" from "the enemy."
The new photographs of Saddam Hussein's sons--close-ups of bearded faces on
bloody plastic--look pretty much like any other cadavers dragged out of a
firefight, and better than many. Uday's face was twisted from a wound
slashing across the nose, but not imploded beyond recognition, as such
faces often are. Qusay's was unscarred, grimacing.
For American forces these were all but the baddest of the bad guys. For
most Iraqis, they were a bad dream that seemed never to end. No question of
innocents here. Uday and Qusay were the enemy, full stop, and when they
died, so did even the remotest chance in hell of a Saddamite dynasty.
But let's not make too much of this triumph. The body counting is far from
over in Iraq.
As the death toll for Americans goes up day by day and folks back home are
having to think about what it means to fight what's now acknowledged to be
a guerrilla war, you're starting to hear comparisons with the long,
soul-destroying counterinsurgency in Vietnam. Well, Iraq could be even worse.
In Nam, there was a government, however feeble and corrupt, to invite us
in. There were structures, including a bureaucracy and an army, that could
be improved, advised, derided or deplored--but which at least existed. In
Iraq, thanks to the American blunders and indecisiveness of the last three
months, there is no army. There are precious few police. And there's barely
a bureaucracy to speak of. The United States has to do just about
everything, but it looks as if it didn't prepare for anything. "People in
the conspiracy-minded Arab world just can't believe you could make such
mistakes," a Jordanian business consultant told me this afternoon. "They
see a great plot to dismember an Arab state or whatever. But they're just
misreading your incompetence."
The Iraqi people themselves were not implicated in the overthrow of the
dictator, any more than they were involved (apart from the bounty-hunting
informant) in killing his two sons. This was a favor the Iraqis did not
ask, a revolution in which they did not participate and a debt of gratitude
they do not feel. Even for those many Iraqis who loathed Saddam and his
sons, there is something humiliating about the spectacle of Uncle Sam
arriving on their doorstep like a deus ex machina to dictate their history.
Now they don't want the Americans to stay, but they're afraid for them to
go and leave an even more dangerous power vacuum. So there are many Iraqis
who say reluctantly that they approve of the U.S. presence.
Winning a guerrilla war requires more than just presence, however. The
response to rebellion has to be clear, direct, very brutal and very
invasive not only for the enemy but for the innocents. And we shouldn't kid
ourselves about this. There is a terrible sameness in the history of
effective counterinsurgencies. As a Guatemalan general once told me after
shooting up the highlands of his country from a helicopter, the people in
areas where insurgents operate need to be taught a simple lesson: we, the
government, can protect you from the guerrillas, but the guerrillas cannot
protect you from us, and you are going to have to choose. It took years,
internment camps and horrific human-rights abuses, but eventually the
Guatemalan rebels were crushed. The Turkish general with his
accordion-album photos of Kurdish corpses won a similar victory in the east
of his country. As did the Algerian generals in theirs. But it's hard to
call those triumphs a liberation, which is what Operation Iraqi Freedom has
claimed to be.
So no wonder Washington wants to believe Saddam and his late sons are the
inspiration for those guerrilla attacks that cost the lives of another
three Americans just today. No wonder Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul
Wolfowitz clings to the idea that paid assassins are at the heart of
resistance to the benevolent American presence. And we should all hope
that's the case, because if it is, then the end of Saddam, which may come
soon, could really mean an end to the war.
But Adnan Abu Odeh, a former advisor to Jordan's King Hussein and one of
the region's real wise men, offers another scenario. He suggests the Iraqi
people see themselves struggling against two enemies now: Saddam on the one
hand, the American occupiers on the other. "Ironically, if Saddam is killed
as well as his two sons," says Abu Odeh, "that will accelerate the process
of seeing the Americans as the real enemy."
The dynasty is over. The dying is not.
© 2003 Newsweek, Inc.
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